The insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir or the Kashmiri Insurgency (also known as Kashmir Intifada) is a conflict between various Kashmiri separatists and the Government of India. There are some groups that support the complete independence of Kashmir, while others seek Kashmir's accession to Pakistan. The conflict in Jammu and Kashmir has strong Islamist elements among the insurgents, with many of the "ultras" identifying with Jihadist movements and supported by such.
The roots of the conflict between the Kashmiri insurgents and the Indian government are tied to a dispute over local autonomy. Democratic development was limited in Kashmir until the late 1970s and by 1988 many of the democratic reforms provided by the Indian government had been reversed and non-violent channels for expressing discontent were limited and caused a dramatic increase in support for insurgents advocating violent secession from India. In 1987, a disputed State election created a catalyst for the insurgency when it resulted in some of the state's legislative assembly members forming armed insurgent groups. In July 1988, a series of demonstrations, strikes and attacks on the Indian government began the Kashmir insurgency, which during the 1990s escalated into the most important internal security issue in India.
Thousands of people have died during fighting between insurgents and the government as well as thousands of civilians who have died as a result of being targeted by the various armed groups.
However, the number of insurgency-related deaths in the state have fallen sharply since the start of a slow-moving peace process between India and Pakistan. Some rights groups claim a higher figure of 100,000 deaths since 1989.
After independence from colonial rule India and Pakistan fought a war over the princely state of Kashmir. At the end of the war India controlled the most valuable parts of Kashmir. While there were sporadic periods of violence there was no organised insurgency movement.
During this period legislative elections in Jammu and Kashmir were first held in 1951 and Sheikh Abdullah’s secular party stood unopposed. He was an instrumental member in the accession of the state to India.
The trend in total yearly civilian and security forces fatalities from insurgency-related violence over 25 years from 1988 to 2013.
After Sheikh Abdullah’s death, his son Farooq Abdullah took over as Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. Farooq Abdullah eventually fell out of favour with the Central Government and the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had his government toppled with the help of his brother-in-law G. M. Shah. A year later, Abdullah reached an accord with the new Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and announced an alliance with the Congress party for the elections of 1987. The elections were allegedly rigged in favour of Abdullah.
Most commentators state that this led to the rise of an armed insurgency movement composed, in part, of those who unfairly lost the elections. Pakistan supplied these groups with logistical support, arms, recruits and training.
In the second half of 1989 the alleged assassinations of the Indian spies and political collaborators by JKLF (Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front) was intensified. Over six months more than a hundred officials were killed to paralyse government's administrative and intelligence apparatus. The daughter of then interior affairs minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was kidnapped in December and four terrorists had to be released for her release. This event led to mass celebrations all over the valley. Farooq Abdullah resigned in January after the appointment of Jagmohan Malhotra as the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir. Subsequently, J&K was placed under Governor's Rule under Article 92 of state constitution.
Under JKLF's leadership on January 21–23 large scale protests were organised in valley. As a response to this largely explosive situation paramilitary units of BSF and CRPF were called. These units were used by the government to combat Maoist insurgency and the North-Eastern insurgency. The challenge to them in this situation was not posed by armed insurgents but by the stone pelters. Their inexperience caused at least 50 casualties in Gawkadal massacre. In this incident the underground militant movement was transformed into a mass struggle. To curb the situation AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) was imposed on Kashmir in September 1990 to suppress the insurgency by giving armed forces the powers to kill and arrest without warrant to maintain public order. During this time the dominant tactic involved killing of a prominent figure in a public gathering to push forces into action and the public prevented them from capturing these insurgents. This sprouting of sympathisers in Kashmir led to the hard-line approach of Indian army.
With JKLF at forefront large number of militant groups like Allah Tigers, People's League and Hizb-i-Islamia sprung up. Weapons were smuggled on a large scale from Pakistan. In Kashmir JKLF operated under the leadership of Ashfaq Majid Wani, Yasin Bhat, Hamid Shiekh and Javed Mir. To counter this growing pro-Pakistani sentiment in Kashmir, Indian media associated it exclusively with Pakistan.
JKLF used distinctly Islamic themes to mobilise crowds and justify their use of violence. They sought to establish an Islamic democratic state where the rights of minorities would be protected according to Quran and Sunna and economy would be organised on the principles of Islamic socialism.
The Indian army has conducted various operations to control and eliminate insurgency in the region such as Operation Sarp Vinash, in which a multi-battalion offensive was launched against terrorists from groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami, al-Badr and Jaish-e-Mohammad who had been constructing shelters in the Pir Panjal region of Jammu and Kashmir over several years. The subsequent operations led to the death of over 60 terrorists and uncovered the largest network of militant hideouts in the history of insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir covering 100 square kilometers.
Islamisation of Kashmir in early 1989
During the early period of militancy in 1989, multiple militants groups strive to Islamise Kashmiri culture and political setup to create a conducive environment for the merger of Kashmir with Pakistan. Numerous Islamist groups were formed in early 1990 who emerged advocating Nizam-e-Mustafa (Rule of Muhammad) as the objective for their struggle. Militant groups like Hizbul mujahideen and Jamaat-e-Islami asserted that struggle of Kashmir will continue till Islamic Caliphate is achieved in Kashmir. Murder of Kashmiri Hindus, Intellectuals, Liberals and activists were described necessary to get rid of un-Islamic elements. Concurrently all cinema houses, beauty parlours, wine shops, bars, video centres, use of cosmetics and similar things were banned by militant groups. Many militant organisations like Al baqr, People's league, Wahdat-e-Islam and Allah Tigers imposed restrictions like banning cigarettes, restrictions on Kashmiri girls. Apart from militants, Kashmir was witnessing Islamization during 1980's when Abdullah Government changed the names of about 2,500 villages from their native names to new Islamic names. The Sheikh also started delivering communal speeches in mosques similar to his speeches in the 1930s. Additionally, he referred Kashmiri Pandits as “mukhbir” or informers of the Indian government.
Beginning in 2004 Pakistan began to end its support for insurgents in Kashmir. This happened because terrorist groups linked to Kashmir twice tried to assassinate Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf. His successor, Asif Ali Zardari has continued the policy, calling insurgents in Kashmir "terrorists". Although it is unclear if Pakistan's intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, thought to be the agency aiding and controlling the insurgency is following Pakistan's commitment to end support for the insurgency in Kashmir.
Despite the change in the nature of the insurgency from a phenomenon supported by external forces to a primarily domestic-driven movement the Indian government has continued to send large numbers of troops to the Indian border.
There have been widespread protests against the Indian army presence in Kashmir.
Once the most formidable face of Kashmir militancy, Hizbul Mujahideen is slowly fading away as its remaining commanders and cadres are being taken out on a regular interval by security forces.
Some minor incidents of grenade throwing and sniper firing at security forces notwithstanding, the situation is under control and more or less peaceful. A record number of tourists including Amarnath pilgrims visited Kashmir during 2012. On 3 August 2012, a top Lashkar-e-Taiba militant commander, Abu Hanzulah involved in various attacks on civilians and security forces was killed in an encounter with security forces in a village in Kupwara district of north Kashmir.
According to Indian Army data quoted by Reuters, at least 70 young Kashmiris joined the insurgency in the 2014, army records showed, with most joining the banned group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was accused of carrying out attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008. Two of the new recruits have doctorates and eight were post graduates, the army data showed. According to BBC, that despite a Pakistani ban on militant activity in Kashmir in 2006, its fighters continue to attempt infiltration into Indian-administered Kashmir. These attempts were curtailed however when people living along the Line of Control which divides Indian and Pakistani Kashmir started to hold public protests against the activities of the insurgent groups.
Following the rise of Islamisation in the Kashmir valley, during the 1987 state elections, various Islamic anti-establishment groups including Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir were organised under a single banner named Muslim United Front (MUF), that is largely current Hurriyat. MUF's election manifesto stressed the need for a solution to all outstanding issues according to Simla Agreement, work for Islamic unity and against political interference from the centre. Their slogan was wanting the law of the Quran in the Assembly. But the MUF won only four seats, even though it had polled 31% votes in the election. However, the elections were widely believed to be rigged, changing the course of politics in the state. The insurgency was sparked by the apparent rigging of state elections in 1987.
The Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence has encouraged and aided the Kashmir independence movement through an insurgency due to its dispute on the legitimacy of Indian rule in Kashmir, with the insurgency as an easy way to keep Indian troops distracted and cause international condemnation of India.
Former Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf in Oct 2014 said during TV interview, "We have source (in Kashmir) besides the (Pakistan) army…People in Kashmir are fighting against (India). We just need to incite them."
Jammu and Kashmir is the only Muslim majority state in Hindu-majority India. Indian-American journalist Asra Nomani states that while India itself is a secular state, Muslims are politically, culturally and economically marginalised when compared to Hindus in India as a whole. The government's decision to transfer 99 acres of forest land in near Amarnath in the Kashmir valley to a Hindu organisation (for setting up temporary shelters and facilities for Hindu pilgrims) solidified this feeling and led to one of the largest protest rallies in Jammu and Kashmir.
After insurgency started in Kashmir valley because of above reasons in the late 1980s, Indian troops entered in Kashmir valley to control the insurgency. Some analysts have suggested that the number of Indian troops in Jammu and Kashmir is close to 600,000 although estimates vary and the Indian government refuses to release official figures. The troops have been accused and held accountable for several humanitarian abuses and have engaged in mass extrajudicial killings, torture, rape and sexual abuse.
Indian security forces have been implicated in many reports for enforced disappearances of thousands of Kashmiris whereas the security forces deny having their information and/or custody. This is often in association with torture or extrajudicial killing. Human right activists estimate the number of disappeared to be over eight thousand, last seen in government detention. The disappeared are believed to be dumped in thousands of mass graves across Kashmir. A State Human Rights Commission inquiry in 2011, has confirmed there are thousands of bullet-ridden bodies buried in unmarked graves in Jammu and Kashmir. Of the 2730 bodies uncovered in 4 of the 14 districts, 574 bodies were identified as missing locals in contrast to the Indian governments insistence that all the graves belong to foreign militants.
Military forces in Jammu and Kashmir operate under impunity and emergency powers granted to them by the central government. These powers allow the military to curtail civil liberties, creating further support for the insurgency.
The insurgents have also abused human rights, engaging in what some have called an ethnic cleansing by exterminating Kashmiri Pandits from the valley of Kashmir. The government's inability to protect the people from both its own troops and the insurgency has further eroded support for the government.
Amnesty International accused security forces of exploiting the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that enables them to "hold prisoners without trial". The group argues that the law, which allows security to detain individuals for as many as two years "without presenting charges, violating prisoners’ human rights". The Army sources maintain that "any move to revoke AFSPA in Jammu and Kashmir would be detrimental to the security of the Valley and would provide a boost to the terrorists."
Former Indian Army ChiefGeneral V. K. Singh rejected the accusations that the action was not taken in the cases of human rights violations by Army personnel. On 24 October 2010, he has said that 104 Army personnel had been punished in Jammu and Kashmir in this regard, including 39 officers. He also said that 95% of the allegations of human rights abuses against Indian Army were proved to be false, of which he remarked, had apparently been made with the "ulterior motive of maligning the armed forces". However, according to Human Rights Watch, the military courts in India, in general, were proved to be incompetent to deal with cases of serious human rights abuses and were responsible in covering up evidence and protecting the involved officers. Amnesty International in its report in 2015, titled “Denied”-Failures in Accountability in Jammu and Kashmir, says, "...with respect to investigations, an inquiry that is conducted by the same authority accused of the crime raises serious questions about the independence and impartiality of those proceedings”, adding that according to the international law, an independent authority that is not involved in the alleged violations has to investigate such crimes.
These human rights violations are said to have contributed to the rise of resistance in Kashmir.
Psychologist Waheeda Khan, explaining the rebellious nature of the Kashmiris, says that because of the tense situations in the valley from the 1990s, the generation gap between parents and young generations has increased. Young generations tend to blame their parents for failing to do anything about the political situation. So they start experimenting with their own aggressive ways to show their curbed feelings and would go against any authority. A prominent psychiatrist of the valley, Margoob, described that children/teenagers are much more vulnerable to passionate actions and reactions, since the young minds are yet to completely develop psychological mechanisms. When they assume that they are "pushed against the wall", they get controlled by the emotions without bothering about the consequences. Also young people easily identify themselves with the "group" rather than with their individual identities. It leads to psychological distress which causes antisocial behaviour and aggressive attitude. Often, this situation gets worsened by the availability of weapons and people becoming familiar to violence after having exposed to conflict for so long. Waheeda Khan remarks, the major concern is that generations of children who are experiencing long-term violence in their lives, may reach adulthood perceiving that violence is a fair means of solving ethinic, religious, or political differences.
High unemployment and lack of economic opportunities in Kashmir are also said to have intensified the struggle.
Since the 2008 protests and 2010 unrest, the turmoil has taken a new dimension when people, particularly youngsters of the Kashmir valley have started pelting stones on security forces to express their aggression and protest for the loss of freedom. In turn they get attacked by the armed personnel with pellets, rubber bullets, sling shots and tear gas shells. This leads to eye-injuries and several other kind of injuries to many people. Security forces also face injuries, and sometimes get beaten up during these events. According to Waheeda Khan, most of the 'stone-pelters' are school and college going students. Large number of these people get arrested during these events for allegedly resorting to stone pelting, after which some of them are also tortured. According to political activist Mannan Bukhari, Kashmiris made stone, an easily accessible and defenseless weapon, their weapon of choice for protest.
The summer of 2010 witnessed a convulsion in the world’s most militarized zone, the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, an unprecedented and deadly civil unrest that is beginning to change a few things on the ground. [...] Little known and relatively anonymous resistance activists emerged, organizing an unarmed agitation more fierce than the armed rebellion against Indian rule two decades earlier. And apparently aware of the post 9/11 world, young Kashmiris, children of the conflict, made stones and rocks a weapon of choice against government armed forces, side-stepping the tag of a terrorist movement linked with Pakistan. The unrest represents a conscious transition to an unarmed mass movement, one that poses a moral challenge to New Delhi’s military domination over the region.
Islamic separatist militants are accused of violence against the Kashmir populace. They continue serious human rights violations: summary executions, rape, and torture. The militants have kidnapped and killed many civil servants and suspected informers.Human Rights Watch alleged that thousands of civilian Kashmiri Hindus have been killed over the past 10 years by Islamic militants organisations or Muslim mobs. The militants committed war rape during the 1980s. Tens of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits have emigrated as a result of the violence. Estimates of the displaced varies from 170,000 to 700,000. Thousands of Kasmiri Pandits had to move to Jammu because of militancy.
Notable terrorist attacks in J&K
July and August 1989 – 3 CRPF personnel and politician Mohd. Yusuf Halwai of NC/F were killed.
Wandhama massacre – In January 1998, 24 Kashmiri Pandits living in the village of Wandhama were massacred by Pakistani militants. According to the testimony of one of the survivors, the militants dressed themselves as officers of the Indian Army, entered their houses and then started firing blindly. The incident was significant because it coincided with former US president Bill Clinton's visit to India and New Delhi highlighted the massacre to prove Pakistan-supported terrorism in Kashmir .
2002 Raghunath temple attacks – First attack occurred on 30 March 2002 when two suicide bombers attacked the temple. Eleven persons including three security forces personnel were killed and 20 were injured. In second attack, the fidayeen suicide squad attacked the temple second time on 24 November 2002 when two suicide bombers stormed the temple and killed fourteen devotees and injured 45 others.
Budshah Chowk attack – A militant attack on 29 July 2005 at Srinigar's city centre, Budshah Chowk, killed 2 and left more than 17 people injured. Most of those injured were media journalists.
Assassination of Ghulam Nabi Lone – On 18 October 2005, suspected Kashmiri militants killed Jammu and Kashmir's then education minister Ghulam Nabi Lone. Militant group called Al Mansurin claimed responsibility for the attack. Abdul Ghani Lone, a prominent All Party Hurriyat Conference leader, was assassinated by unidentified gunmen during a memorial rally in Srinagar. The assassination resulted in wide-scale demonstrations against the Indian forces for failing to provide enough security cover for Lone.
2016 Uri attack – Four armed terrorists sneaked into an army camp and lobbed grenades onto tents causing massive fire culminating in the death of 19 military personnel.
2018 Sunjuwan attack - On 10 February 2018, Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists attacked Sunjuwan Army Camp in Jammu and Kashmir. 6 Indian army soldiers, 4 terrorists, 1 civilian died and 11 were injured.
2019 Pulwama attack - On 14 February 2019, Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists attacked a convoy of CRPF men killing 46 soldiers and injuring 20.
Over time the Indian government has increasingly relied on military presence to control the insurgency. The military has allegedly committed human rights violations. The government would often dissolve assemblies, arrest elected politicians and impose president's rule. The government also rigged elections in 1987. In recent times there have been signs that the government is taking local elections more seriously. The government has also funneled development aid to Kashmir and Kashmir has now become the biggest per capita receiver of Federal aid.
The Pakistani central government originally supported, trained and armed the insurgency in Kashmir, sometimes known as "ultras" (extremists), however after groups linked to the Kashmiri insurgency twice attempted to assassinate president Pervez Musharraf, Musharraf decided to end support for such groups. His successor, Asif Ali Zardari has continued the policy, calling insurgents in Kashmir "terrorists".
But the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence hasn't followed the lead of the government and has continued its support for insurgent groups in Kashmir although Pakistani support for the insurgency has certainly waned.
Since around 2000 the 'insurgency' has become far less violent and has instead taken on the form of protests and marches. Certain groups have also chosen to lay down their arms and look for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
The different insurgent groups have different aims in Kashmir. Some want complete independence from both India and Pakistan, others want unification with Pakistan and still others just want greater autonomy from the Indian government.
A 2010 survey found that 43% of the people in J&K and 44% of the people in AJK would favour complete independence from both India and Pakistan, with support for the independence movement unevenly distributed across the region.
Other less well known groups are the Freedom Force and Farzandan-e-Milat. A smaller group, Al-Badr, has been active in Kashmir for many years and is still believed to be functioning. All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an organisation that uses moderate means to press for the rights of the Kashmiris, is often considered as the mediator between New Delhi and insurgent groups.
It is unclear if Al Qaeda has a presence in Jammu and Kashmir. Donald Rumsfeld suggested that they were active and in 2002 the SAS hunted for Osama bin Laden in Jammu and Kashmir. Al Qaeda claims that it has established a base in Jammu and Kashmir. However, there has been no evidence for any of these assertions. The Indian army also claims that there is no evidence of Al Qaeda presence in Jammu and Kashmir. Al Qaeda has established bases in Pakistani administered Kashmir and some, including Robert Gates have suggested that they have helped to plan attacks in India.
According to Sumantra Bose in his book, Kashmir: Roots of Conflict, Paths to Peace, around 40000 (Indian estimates) to 80000 (Hurriyat estimates) civilians, separatist guerilla fighters and Indian security personnel died from the time period of 1989 to 2002 in both Kashmir Valley and Jammu . More than 4600 security personnel, 13500 civilians and 15937 militants including 3000 from outside Jammu and Kashmir (mostly Pakistanis and some Afghans) were killed in this fourteen-year period. Also in this period, 55,538 incidents of violence were recorded. Indian forces engaged in counter insurgency operations captured around 40,000 firearms, 150,000 explosive devices, and over 6 million rounds of assorted ammunition. Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society posits a figure of 70,000 deaths, most of them civilians killed by Indian forces.
^, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 June 2006. Retrieved 8 February 2006.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) Multiple sources for the number of Indian counter-insurgency troops in the region "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 23 May 2011. Retrieved 2006-02-08.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
^Parthasarathy, Malini. "Understanding Kashmir's stone pelters". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 29 April 2018. Retrieved 24 May 2017. Today's protesters might shout anti-India slogans such as azadi, but their anger is specifically directed at the security forces in the context of the brutal killings of innocent boys...
^"Indian award for Kashmir 'human shield' officer". BBC News. 23 May 2017. Archived from the original on 23 May 2017. Retrieved 23 May 2017. High unemployment and complaints of heavy-handed tactics by security forces battling street protesters and fighting insurgents have aggravated the problem.
^Parthasarathy, Malini. "Understanding Kashmir's stone pelters". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 29 April 2018. Retrieved 24 May 2017. The protesters on the streets...(are) frustrated at the lack of employment and economic opportunities. It is not hard to see where the frustration of the educated Kashmiri youth comes from. On the one hand, they are told that they are Indian citizens but they are shut out of the narrative of India as an emerging economic power. With mobile phones and internet communication being restricted, their sense of participation in the larger Indian discourse is sharply reduced.